There’s been a lot of talk and commotion surrounding fatbikes, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise since the public seemed to receive very well these big wheelers, and since the manufacturers squeezed such a model in their range almost over night. Even if a fatbike looks like a bicycle that counts more on visual impact and concept, in reality things are quite different, but you’ll have to ride a few days in order to figure this thing out.
I was lucky enough to get a chance to ride Specialized’s Fatboy for several days, and these days proved useful in order for me to figure out if a fatbike is merely a trend, or is there something actually practical behind it. First of all, the wheels are really big, but they don’t exceed the 26 inch format in terms of diameter, instead being wide. Very wide, in fact. 4.6 inch wide to be fully accurate. Does this extra friction slow you down? Before we get to that, I’d mention that this tire size renders a suspension fork or a shock useless. Inflated at 1 bar, they provide all the shock absorbtion you need, and also work wonders in what regards traction. Simply put, it’s like riding on a fluffy carpet when on a fatbike.
So, do the tires drag you down? Actually no. They are big, no doubt about that, but they are foldable, and considering the bike’s total weight of 13 kilograms, something tells us they aren’t that heavy. Also, note that rolling speed will probably exceed your expectations. The only thing you’ll have to get used to is the wider bottom bracket.
Given its configuration, Fatboy’s maneuverability leaves to be desired, even an enduro mountain bike performing way better, and keep in mind that frame size (or at least geometry) differs, since I had to seriously bend forward in order to reach the handlebar. However, the stem is shorter, which allows you to easily lift the front wheel. Add the wide handlebar, and, believe it or not, you actually get a bike that’s stable, has the bare minimum agility for off-road riding, and embodies a great trail machinery, which once you’ve learned how to master, becomes addictive.
Still, sticking only to dirt trails would mean keeping the Fatboy on a leash. Yes, Sir, this bike can do a lot more! It can ollie, jump ramps, drop, ride half-pipes, whip and table-top. After all, who cares it wasn’t designed for this? And coming back to the fatbike’s designated usage, it’s good to know that 2 of its features really come in hand: wide tires and gear ratios. The tires will offer you the needed grip in any situation, while the 2×10 (22/36×11/36) drivetrain is more than enough to get you out of trouble.
So, the Specialized Fatboy is a bike I’d buy anytime despite the 4 or 5 I already own. It’s impossible to transport it on a classical roof rack, it’s expensive, but it’s light and extremely fun. I’d also add that it’s not the senseless bike some think it is, as the fatbike focuses on fun rides, and on features that can get you anywhere when riding on off-road.